Jonathan Chait has a great post up at New York:
The gigantic ethics violation that was once called the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, and is now known as White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner Weekend, is fast upon us. The event originally served as a relatively harmless scaled-up version of the routine source-greasing that is traditionally performed at bars and restaurants. It has become a powerful metaphor for the incestuous relationship between the news media and the power elite.Needless to say, the whole thing is lousy (in very close to the original sense) with conflicts of interest, but with the exception of Chait and a few other malcontents, no one seems all that bothered. (True, Tom Brokaw complained, but he seemed to be troubled by the tackiness of the low grade of celebrities, not by the flagrant influence peddling.)
The WHCD has evolved into a profitable leverage opportunity for media companies. They use the cachet of their brand name, and the access it gives them to the event, to lure celebrities and sell that access to corporations. The biggest media personalities are needed to lure in both the celebrity flesh and the corporate johns, but the rest of the reporters are completely superfluous to the exercise.
A major aspect of our other ongoing thread (OK, just a little free TV blogging) is the way deep pocketed interests like Verizon and ATT can so control narratives that even our best journalists end up buying a factually questionable stories. When you get into the details (like the Atlantic's elaborate party and its list of corporate underwriters), you start to understand how this can happen.
But what really bothers me about journalism isn't the tolerance of conflicts of interest.
It isn't the devaluing of accuracy.
It isn't the increasing tendency toward group think.
It isn't the practice of uncritically passing on press releases as news stories.
It isn't the inability or unwillingness of press watchdogs to honestly address serious problems.
All of these things are bad, but it's when you combine them that you start looking at catastrophic failure.